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A New Muslim Brotherhood Symbol: R4BIA

By Dawn Perlmutter


There is a new Islamist symbol appearing in protests, on social networking sites and at demonstrations throughout the Middle East. The symbol allegedly originated as a four-fingered hand sign by pro-Morsi protesters during demonstrations in Egypt’s Rabia al-Adawiya Square. The hand gesture quickly evolved into an image of the hand commonly depicted in black on a bright yellow background. It is called the “R4BIA sign.” In English it is officially spelled in capital letters and the letter “A” is replaced with the number 4. It has become the symbol of the massacre of pro-Morsi supporters in Rabia al-Adawiya Square on August 14, 2013. This new sign already has its own history, legend and mysticism and it contains all the attributes that Islamists favor in their symbology, particularly martyrdom.

The design of the symbol has been endowed with characteristics of the sacred in Islam: the color yellow used in the background signifies the golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the hand depicted in the color black denotes the black cloth that covers the Kaaba….

…R4BIA is the end of capitalists

 R4BIA is the end of Zionists

 R4BIA is the end of immoral press

 RABIA is the arena of martyrdom

 R4BIA is the mother of martyrs

 R4BIA is a smiling martyrdom

Many activists on social media have confirmed that the sign originated in Turkey, which officially opposed the military coup in Egypt. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was one of the first to promote the R4BIA hand sign during a speech on August 17 when he saluted crowds several times with the four-finger sign. Turkish footballers also began to use the hand sign after scoring goals, soon after the symbol became popular on Turkish social media. It used to take years, sometimes decades, for a symbol to achieve global recognition, however, in the age of technology, with Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the Internet, this new Islamist sign went viral in days. Although the R4BIA symbol may have originally signified solidarity with massacred protesters, the meaning and the imagery has rapidly been radicalized to embody the primary concepts of Islamist propaganda: honor, heroism and martyrdom in the goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate. Images of the R4BIA symbol now include the fingers being depicted as rifles, the hand holding the black flag of jihad and writing on the hand calling for an Islamic Caliphate.

Perhaps many of those holding placards, wearing t-shirts and raising the four-finger salute do not understand the radical implications. Similar to movie stars and students who wear keffiyeh scarves, they may just assume it’s a cool, hip solidarity thing to do. However, there is no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood understands the significance of disguising their true Islamist agenda, which is why they rebranded their name to the Freedom and Justice Party and removed images of the Quran and crossed swords from their logo.

The R4BIA sign is not a benign peace symbol; it is a symbol of resistance, Islamism, martyrdom, and a visual call to arms comparable to the black flag of jihad. The black hand on the bright yellow background is appropriately similar to highway warning signs that caution us against danger and indicate a hazard ahead on the road that may not be readily apparent.


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